Portable wheel for those with big (and deep) pockets.
Whether by choice or by coincidence, Thrustmaster is a lewdly appropriate name for a company that makes joysticks. And what better way to show off the size of your virtual “prowess” than to have a large, high-end driving wheel in your living room?
[image1]Thrustmaster’s newest Ferrari-styled wheel won’t get you the same come-hither glances that a real Ferrari might, but the Ferrari Wireless GT Cockpit 430 Scuderia Edition wheel is nevertheless a sexy-looking piece of gaming hardware.
A self-contained, portable, wireless cockpit is a major sell for anyone who’s ever had to manhandle a clunky wheel in and out of a closet over the years. While it may not be the chick-magnet that an actual sports car is, the women (and statistically some of the men) in your life will nevertheless appreciate how easily you can pack it up and get it the hell out of the living room.
Wireless portability does come at a cost—both financial and feature-wise. Retailing for $250, this isn’t a purchase you make lightly. At that price, the wireless Scuderia wheel is approaching the cost of some of the real bad boys of the steering wheel market. And those other guys offer a handful of important things that Thrustmaster’s Scuderia wheel does not.
But make no mistake, everything about this wheel screams quality. The base is solid and stable. The wheel itself feels amazing to the touch. The pedals are sturdy and firm. Hell, the thing is modeled after the interior of a Ferrari 430 Scuderia, so it looks like hot sex—or at least a reasonable plastic facsimile thereof.
[image2]It’s also ridiculously easy to move. The wheel detaches from the cockpit, the steering shaft folds in on itself, and there’s a convenient handle on the front. Unfortunately, with convenience come heavy casualties.
First of all, the Scuderia wheel has to sacrifice force-feedback in order to be wireless. There’s a reason the other wheels use all those wires. Wires mean power. Power means force-feedback. And force-feedback means feeling the virtual road. Instead, Thrustmaster substitutes moderate mechanical resistance that kicks in as the wheel approaches the edges of its rotation.
Which brings me to the second point: there’s minimal wheel rotation. Where most other wheels in the same price range (and even lower) offer much fuller 900 degree rotation, the Scuderia wheel barely gets half that amount. I’m not sure why this is the case, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has something to do with the detachable wheel. Like force-feedback, this seems like yet one more feature tossed into the fire for the sake of convenience and portability.
Third, the pedals are in awkward positions. Having the accelerator and brake on opposite sides of the steering shaft feels plain weird. Ultimately, it just seems like a design necessity so that the wheel shaft could fold down between the two pedals. It’s a shame because those pedals otherwise look and feel great.
[image3]Last, you’re stuck with only paddle shifters. Yeah, I know, plenty of high-end cars use paddle shifters—including the 430 Scuderia itself—but the lack of the option for a more traditional shifter means most of the cars you use in most of the games you play won’t be as authentic as most sim fans would hope or expect. Race in a Ferrari 430, and maybe you won’t notice the difference. But switch to an Elise or a Ford GT, and you might reach for a phantom shifter (you may want to warn your guy friends not to sit too close to your right-hand).
For serious racing fans, I can only imagine this would be a supplemental wheel, the one you use in the living room while your real wheel sits permanently in the designated “game room” where it can breathe. For less serious fans, you may not care about some of the absent features because it looks and feels great, and it can be carried around like an oversized lunchbox.
Ultimately, if convenience and portability trump realism and functionality—and you’ve got a spare couple of c-notes—then give it a whirl.